Sunday, August 14, 2005

Introverts and Extroverts

Normally our daughter goes into the nursery during church to, as she puts it, "play with the babies," but today she heard our church's contempory music group warming up between services and decided that she wanted to sit with us in church. This would be the first time she had ever sat with us in church, but I figured we'd give it a try.

My daughter is a hoot.

During the songs she got up and danced and tried her best to match the arm movements of the singers on stage (even trying to hold a microphone, though she wasn't quite sure what they were for). Everyone around her was giggling because she was so cute. "Children's time" came around, so I took her up front to sit with the assistant pastor and the other kids, most of whom were several years older than she was. She completely stole the show. Unlike most two year olds, there is not a shy bone in my child's body. And, being two, she will say whatever comes into her head. Also unlike most two year olds, she speaks very clearly and in complete sentences (she's scary-smart, but I think the fact that we have never baby-talked to her made a big difference in her language skills). Now add to all of this the fact that she was sitting right next to the pastor's microphone, broadcasting everything she said, and you begin to see just how funny the situation was. The more the crowd giggled at what she had to say, the more she felt she needed to talk to all of them. Everything she said was on topic, and she didn't monopolize the conversation, but her "cuteness and talent" really made the service.

As you can no doubt guess, my daughter is a total extrovert -- which will surprise no one who knows her father. My son, who is now 16, was an extrovert when he was young, but then when I became a single parent in the Navy, we had to move around a lot. This lack of stability in his life made him fearful of any new situation, which has led him to become something of an introvert. As I was watching my daughter "perform," I was struck by the difference in my two kids -- and also by the differences in characters that I have read about.

For the most part, I think people want to read about extroverts. These are the people that have the courage to go out and change the world (or are changed by it). Even if we happen to be introverts ourselves, the protagonist acts as our stand-in. Through her we are able to experience the world with a boldness we couldn't manage in real life. Some characters, particularly those in young adult novels, start out as introverts, but in almost every case, the events of the story force them to reach beyond themselves and act in ways that can only be described as extroverted. When we are writing our own stories, we would do well to keep this in mind, I think. It's okay to have a character who is an introvert at the beginning of the novel, but at some point, that character is going to have to branch out and experience the world directly if he or she is going to be satisfying. We should consider this from the very beginning as we plan out our characters' development over the course of the tale. I write well instinctually, but I'm hoping that realizations like this wil help put more of my writing under my conscious control. I think the mark of a professional is the ability to know not just what we are doing, but also to know why we are doing it!


marisa13mot said...

Wish I'd been at your church service! :-)

Keith Watt said...

Heh, yeah, she was a total riot. No offense to the pastor, but my daughter knows how to work a crowd better than she does...